LIVINGSTON, NJ - A week before the Livingston High School Ecolancers competed in the 2013 Shell Eco-Marathon (SEMA), the seven LHS team members were filmed for a half-hour NJN Classroom Close-Up segment, set to air on Oct. 12 and Nov. 16 of this year. The Emmy-winning TV program features innovative projects in New Jersey public schools, now including Livingston’s fuel-efficient vehicle that competed against college-level teams last year.

The Ecolancers is a team of seven students, whose challenge is to design, construct and test the most fuel-efficient vehicle possible. For four consecutive seasons the Ecolancers have been steadily improving, placing 21st out of 43 high school and college-level teams last year. According to team manager Tal Lipschitz, it was Livingston’s successfully and continually developing technology program that sparked NJN’s interest in them.

“Being featured on television is really helpful to the team’s morale and motivation,” Lispchitz said. “We spend hours working in the tech lab, so having someone who is willing to air on television and spread the word and to display our work to the public is really important.”

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The show itself will help spread the message about SEMA, as well as the global effort to try and reduce the amount of fuel consumed every year. But Lipschitz also said the team spends two to three days in the beginning of the year designing, and once building begins, the Ecolancers meet daily and are often in the lab after midnight prior to the competition. In addition to the message, the half-hour segment will also highlight the outstanding efforts of some of Livingston’s brightest students.

“A lot more goes into the project than just building the car,” Lipschitz said.  “Being that the team is self-funded, we spend time fundraising to buy the specialized parts and equipment we need to travel. All of our sponsors, including Transoptions and Northfield Collision, have made the construction of the vehicle possible.”

All students who join the team are required to take a technology class to ensure that they know the safety and use of lab tools and are generally interested in a future in engineering. Team advisors, Jim Novotny and Corey Yersak, and the team manager then select students they feel best complement the team. According to Lipschitz, Novotny and Yersak and the rest of the LHS technology department volunteer a large amount of their time to the project.

“Mr. Novotny has been involved with the team since its creation,” Lipschitz said. “He is a fundamental part of the team and without him the team would not exist and without his dedication and volunteered hours to the team, we would be nowhere near as successful as we are now.”

Teammates Jaimey Shapey and Alex Sugarman also commented on the team’s commitment, agreeing with their manager’s statement that there is more to the project than simply building a car. According to the members, it is difficult to understand the commitment that the Ecolancers have without actually being a part of the team. Beside the challenge of building a car from scratch, the students also have to adapt to balancing schoolwork with the 10-to-12 hours of work after school.

“Each of the seven team members has specific role and a job on the team that, in the overall scheme of things, contributes to the success of the team,” Sugarman said.

Some team members focus on the engineering while others take charge of aerodynamics and molding. Shapey, for instance, is the team’s graphics specialist, whose job it is to create displays to be presented at the competition while consistently updating the Ecolancers website with their progress.

The team has already started the design process for this year’s gasoline-powered, fuel-efficient vehicle. The competition will be held in Detroit in April. The Ecolancers just completed phase one of Shell’s registration: applying in order to be selected to attend the competition. Since the team saw a successful run in 2013, they are hoping to be selected again for the marathon.

“As far as my experience on the team, I can say it is the greatest experience of my life,” Lipschitz said. “This is going to be my third year and being able to transfer my knowledge to the younger kids, so they can keep the team going, is really amazing. What I’ve learned not only about engineering and automotive parts, but also about leadership and teamwork is really great.” 

More information about the construction, design and progress of the team can be found at http://www.ecolancers.org